|The author in an alley in Pienza, Italy, December 2018|
The polar vortex had swallowed the city. A thin blanket of snow folded over Houston, another abnormality in the oddity of the current times. Day three of on and off electricity, water shortages, the chilling of bones and the cloak of the COVID-19 plague still omnipresent. I found warmth in the crevices: the soft, luxurious fur of my cat oblivious to everything, green chili soup leftovers, Internet humor. Then another opening, this time in my chest: I was ready for a past life regression session. After months exploring the subject as a path to self-knowledge, I chose a sub-freezing afternoon to descend into a spiritual ladder that took me to the underworld of long lost memories.
I believe in science, in the evolution of the species, in a round Earth and the vastness of the universe. I also believe in a higher power -- God, Goddess, Source -- and that when we die our bodies can morph into ashes, but our consciousness doesn’t disappear completely. It returns in a different body living another life, savoring other experiences, each trip an opportunity to learn how to relate with others and how to be at peace with oneself. I believe in a Soul. And yet, I have often treated reincarnation with skepticism since it’s not written in any science book. But neither is God. As I grow older, I’m slowly freeing up certain beliefs from my self-expression dungeons, letting them breath the air I inhale and become known to the world. Aging is a cleavage for expressiveness.
I elected to do my very first past life regression with the video recording of a group session led by past life psychic Ainsley McLeod. I was afraid, a familiar fear experienced when I was about to meditate for the very first time approximately 7 years ago inside a yoga studio with a guest Buddhist monk. Back then my need to be in control was so exacerbated that I thought meditation could ignite some sort of a hellish high in my bloodstream. Back to the present day, what if my mind got stuck in a place of no return in a faraway life? Shouldn’t I at least have another human being next to me in the room to wake me up from a bad trip? I was also a bit skeptical: would I see a past life or just a byproduct of my fertile imagination?
I laid down on my couch, headphones on, eyes closed. With his soothing voice, Ainsley started a relaxation exercise: “visualize a warm, soothing, protective white light filling up your head and slowly flowing through your neck, shoulders, the bottom of your rib cage, arms, legs, feet.” As the imaginary light traveled through my body, I felt a gentle warmth around the sacral chakra, which is located at the base of the spine. That’s where my lower back has given me grief through the years when I feel overwhelmed and unsupported. Looking back, I now believe that the raised temperature meant that I was feeling supported and grounded. As he continued with the relaxation, I could visualize the safe white light emanating from head to toe. Next, following Ainsley’s instructions, I tried to see a past life, but my mind went blank. Thoughts started to take shape slowly, but everything felt forced, as if I was trying too hard to see something, a series of random images moving fast like clips flipping through TV channels. Then finally, when I asked my own spirit guides to show me an opening (“tell me, who was I?”), I immediately noticed someone holding my hand. I was now a young girl, 8-9 years old, pale skin and dark hair, well-groomed in a pretty white cotton dress with puffy sleeves walking alone into a dark alley in an European town, date unclear, perhaps 1700-1800s, perhaps just an old medieval city in a more recent time. The alley led to a dead end street and I sat down on the sidewalk, garbage containers nearby, my dress and skin very dirty as if I've been there for days. A slim brown dog with a friendly presence observed me from a distance; an adult stopped by to reprehend and humiliate me. I didn’t utter a word but felt a faint sense of defiance. I couldn't see the exact moment of my death, only the motionless corpse still warm struck by the elements, the cold stone pavement underneath it. Except for the dog that came to lick my body there was no one there. A scene of abandonment.
At that moment, Ainsley announced it was time to return to the present life and that’s when I felt truly overwhelmed, a profound sadness dispensing from my chest as if my heart had been squeezed hard like an orange, all juices gone, shortness of breath, energy completely drained out and a sensation of elevated body temperature in a room that felt cold just 10-15 minutes earlier. Was this the moment my mind would lose itself to self-inflicted madness? I wanted to scream for my husband to come and rescue me, but my throat was paralyzed, unable to cry, even whispers were locked in a place I couldn’t reach (and that breathtaking sadness like a thousand daggers flattening me to my seat…). It took me a good 15 minutes to start feeling at ease in my body again.
The exercise now was to reflect on the lessons I learned in that past life. Words came pouring out in my journal as if the city’s water boil notice was gone and all faucets were suddenly operating at full pressure: because I died so young, I learned that I must live life to the fullest; life is short. Since I was a child in this present life as Juliana I've had ‘carpe diem’ basically ingrained in me, a tattoo etched in the RNA of my blood. Travel, love, meet people, experience the world, be open to new adventures, be happy, see the good in everything, shun down sadness. So much to see, so much to do! Also: be self-reliant, learn how to be independent, don't depend on anybody for anything because in the end nobody is there to save you. I'm not saying that these lessons are right, but in my present life this is how I've been showing up in the world.
This is in part how I have been showing up, a sense of urgency to see, savor, feel, a strong need to assert my independence. I’m still processing that session, peeling its layers, but not in a state of scientific inquiry or judgement on whether what I saw really happened or if it was my subconscious mind creating dream-like metaphors to explain my personality, my drives, my fears. I’m digesting it from a place of curiosity, a road into self-knowledge, a plug into the grid of personal resilience. Power just went off again in my neighborhood as I write this very paragraph, the blue screen of my computer floating in the darkness, but I’m now in another alley, one where my heart feels open, some wounds licked, light beaming, cracks of opportunities singing. That was then, this is now.